Stephen Baker

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Is a tweet worth a drink?

May 9, 2010General

A New York restaurant, Havana Central, gave free drinks to a woman who was tweeting about the place. Marshall Sponder, who was monitoring the tweets, orchestrated the promotion. And the pay-off was that the woman, Kimberly 819, tweeted to her 126 followers that Havana Central was her "new favorite spot!!"

Seems like a good deal for all concerned. But if the news about Havana Central spreads (as it is at this moment) and others go there hoping to get free drinks for tweets, what should the restaurant do? Are thousands of tweets worth thousands of well drinks? What if someone is tweeting to a following of two? Or one? If Chris Brogan walks in there with his following of 136,000, should he get better drinks?

Connie Mack Stadium

Decades ago, after the Philadelphia Phillies moved from the venerable Connie Mack Stadium to a big concrete-and-astroturfed donut called Veterans Stadium, I went to a game. I paid more and got far worse seats than at the old park, and I wrote a letter of disappointment to the team. Within days, I received a letter from the club president, along with a voucher for two box seats for the game of my choice. My best friend promptly wrote a similar letter, and got the same treatment. Then his 12-year-old brother wrote one. He got back a letter, but no tickets.

Somewhere between the second letter and the third, the humans in the Phillies office sniffed a scam. The challenge, for Havana Central and others, is to make automated systems just as smart.

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